We see digital music continuing to make its way into the mainstream. Once people experience the benefits that digital music offers, there is no going back. On the hardware side, hard drives will be everywhere - in your stereo cabinet, in your set-top box, in the car, and of course in portable devices.

HomeToys Interview

David Hyman | CEO of Gracenote

HomeToys Interview
David Hyman, CEO of Gracenote.

We see digital music continuing to make its way into the mainstream. Once people experience the benefits that digital music offers, there is no going back. On the hardware side, hard drives will be everywhere - in your stereo cabinet, in your set-top box, in the car, and of course in portable devices.


www.gracenote.com/


1. What is Gracenote and how does its technology impact the consumer electronics sector?

Our goal is to enhance the music listening experience for people wherever they listen to music, by providing reliable, high-quality information services to consumer electronics manufacturers and developers around the world. The way people listen to music is going to radically change for the better. We provide a suite of integrated software and services that enable consumer electronics manufacturers and software developers to make digital music more accessible, more convenient and more compelling.

Gracenote's information services are used by leading media players including AOL's WinAmp, Apple's iTunes, RealNetwork's RealOne Player; and leading consumer electronics manufacturers including Pioneer, Phillips and Sony. Over 30 million users each month rely on Gracenote to provide a better experience, wherever they listen to music.

2. The system integrators/custom installers are embracing the hard disk server category. Can you detail why this appears to be?

There is one simple reason: These devices are much smarter. Essentially, they're going to enable people to enjoy their music in ways they never imagined before. With hard drive servers, people can listen to music in more intuitive ways. They can personalize their listening experience by creating playlists of their favorite songs - or tap the full potential of their existing music libraries using smart search tools that put long-forgotten favorites at their fingertips. Most people don't listen to the majority of the music they already own and love - because it's not accessible in the format they want or it's been buried for too long; some households even end up buying the same CD more than once! Music recognition and information services are going to change that. For example, if you want to hear "Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix and follow it up with an acoustic version by Stevie Ray Vaughn or Sting's version, you'll be able to do so with very little effort. You'll be able to see and search your entire music collection very easily. They're also going to enable new music recommendations to help people discover and expand their musical tastes, as well as other information services to make listening a real joy.

Additionally, hard disk encoders and media servers are going to alleviate the headache of transporting CD's and make it easy for people to listen to music wherever they want - whether that's at home, or on a portable mp3 player, or in their cars.

The "intelligent" nature of these devices makes them a better choice for converging with other consumer electronics devices, which will be necessary for home networking.

3. What market trends are driving the hard disk music server category?

A better listening experience is really what's driving this category. People want to listen to more of their music collections without having to spend time changing CD's or figuring out what's queued up in the changer. These devices have the capacity to take music appreciation so much further - with the ability to sort and play you music by artist or genre - make custom playlists of your favorite songs. People want choices in where they listen to music and these devices make it a lot easier to do so on their own terms - including exporting files to an MP3 player or burning CDs.

4. Will Gracenote add DVD Recognition to its suite of services? If so how and when will this rollout happen?

Yes. We'll be announcing and demonstrating this technology for the first time at this year's CES. This is going to dramatically change the way you view and listen to DVDs. Media recognition enables advanced functionality that is limited only by imagination. We expect to see a wide variety of implementations. The most straightforward is changer management. The ability to search your entire movie collection by title, actor, director, or other fields is a huge step forward in convenience. Other functionality we see on the horizon is the ability to automatically optimize your system's sound and video settings based on your preferences and the system's capabilities. For example, we can store the audio and video options available for each DVD, and even the differences between each version. Your DVD player with Gracenote technology can be "smart," and choose the best sound options based on your setup, and it knows that you always prefer widescreen and want French subtitles. We also see manufacturers using this technology to enable parental controls, or to offer rich multimedia content customized to the particular DVD - for example a film could always have the latest trailers, or users could easily link to news, fansites, or other network content.

5. What does the future hold for digital music and its hardware?

We see digital music continuing to make its way into the mainstream. Once people experience the benefits that digital music offers, there is no going back. On the hardware side, hard drives will be everywhere - in your stereo cabinet, in your set-top box, in the car, and of course in portable devices. Manufacturers are going to offer more advanced functionality in sleeker, more elegant user interfaces, presenting powerful features in simple, intuitive ways. Digital media devices will work together in Personal Networks, synching content, playlists, and other data to create a seamless experience.

David Hyman joined Gracenote (formerly CDDB) as its President in May, 2000, and was named CEO in October of 2001. In this role, he is responsible for insuring the execution of corporate revenue, operational and strategic objectives as well as setting the strategic direction for the company in the evolving Internet and music market spaces.

Prior to joining Gracenote, David served as senior vice president of marketing for MTVi Group, the online venture of MTV, Inc. While at MTVi Group, he was responsible for all online and offline marketing for the Web's largest music destination, MTV.com. Prior to that, as senior VP of sales and marketing for SonicNet.com, David developed some of the Web's first rich-media sponsorships with the biggest names in brand marketing, such as the Gap and Levi's.

Hyman's Internet career began in 1994 at HotWired, Wired magazine's online partner and the Internet's first commercial Web site, where he placed some of the Web's first banner ads. He also developed a method for measuring the effectiveness of online advertising. In 1996, David joined the online music magazine Addicted to Noise, which was ultimately acquired by SonicNet.com.


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